Each academic year Columbia hosts a specialist of the Dutch-speaking world who teaches a course open to both advanced undergraduates and graduate students during the term he or she is in residence. Below are listed the individual courses, with their instructors, that have been offered since 2007.
Fall 2015 & Fall 2016
THE OTHER IDEA OF EUROPE: THE TWENTIETH CENTURY’S HISTORY OF MASS ANNIHILATION (HIST 4364)
Taught by Prof. Abram de Swaan, visiting Queen Wilhelmina Professor
The idea of Europe evokes ‘Civilization’ and ‘Modernity,’ and a commitment to democracy and global human rights. This ‘Europe’, however, has a dark past, a twentieth century marked not only by two world wars, but also by brutal conquest, murderous tyranny and mass annihilation, both in colonial expeditions and in bloody campaigns on the subcontinent itself. Such destructive episodes are often conveniently forgotten or deliberately denied. These days, the European ideals are threatened by terrorism both homegrown and foreign, and by xenophobic nationalist movements that, in response, have gained political power throughout the continent. It is more than ever necessary to overcome oblivion and remain alert to present threats to the European ideals.
This seminar will explore the ‘dark side of Europe’: the succession of genocidal episodes perpetrated during the long twentieth century by Europeans against others and against one another. The course is open to advanced undergraduates and graduate students.
The Idea of Europe (HIST W4380)
Taught by Paul Schnabel, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Utrecht University, and Alexander Rinnooy Kan, Professor of Economics and Business at the University of Amsterdam
This seminar examines the “Idea of Europe” from the perspective of the European Union’s formation, expansion, and the crises now confronting the idea of European unity. Our point of departure is the Netherlands, whose political and social structure are of interest in their own right and exemplify many of the aspirations of the union, and whose present struggles reveal some of the tensions that threaten the cohesion of the European community. Its social, economic and political history have culminated in an unusual set of institutions, an idiosyncratic approach to policy domains such as social security, labor relations, health care and education, and a highly consensus driven mode of interaction among national stakeholders on the interface of civic society and the political system.
Urban Culture in the Dutch Golden Age (HIST W4065)
Taught by Maartje Van Gelder, Lecturer in Early Modern History, University of Amsterdam, and Michiel Van Grosen, Lecturer in Early Modern History, University of Amsterdam
In the celebrated words of the 17th-century English ambassador Sir William Temple the Dutch Republic was “the fear of some, the envy of others, and the wonder of all their neighbors.” This course introduces students to this powerful new state that arose from the epic revolt of the Netherlands against Spanish rule in the late sixteenth century. It analyzes how the federation of seven ‘united’ provinces, a political anomaly in a time of centralized monarchies, became an economic superpower. A modern ‘bourgeois’ society dominated by merchants and professional administrators rather than by noblemen, prelates, and aristocrats, the Dutch Republic built a colonial empire reaching from Brazil to Japan. It was the first European state to practice religious toleration on a large scale, while it produced artistic riches by the likes of Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Hals that are still treasured today. This course provides a varied and dynamic picture of a highly urbanized society in a period that the Dutch with good reason call their ‘Golden Age’.
The Long War of the 1940s: The Dutch Case in European History and Memory in WWII (HIST W4369)
Taught by Peter Romijn, Professor of History, University of Amsterdam and Director of Research, Netherlands Institute for War, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies
This seminar examines the immediate impact and the longer-running legacies of the Second World War in the Netherlands, with reference to several other Western European nations (France, Belgium). The ‘Long War’ relates to the Second World War as history in the first place, discussing the place of the occupied nation(s) in ‘Hitler’s Empire’ (Mark Mazower). The perspective focuses on the nation-states, endangered in its very existence by oppressive foreign occupation, subsequently in need of rebuilding and reinventing themselves against many odds. The second element of the seminar is the legacy of the ‘Long War’, stretching over the generations to the present day. The Long War has been subject to a never-ending series of controversies in the public sphere that have profoundly influenced the historiography of the war in the different nations. The course explores the interconnections between politics of memory, historiography and cultural interpretations of the embattled past (films, novels, televised documentaries in particular).
Culture, Politics and the Economy in the Low Countries in the later Middle Ages
Taught by Wim Blockmans, Professor Emeritus, University of Leiden and Emeritus Rector, Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study
The Low Countries lived through several and successive ‘Golden Ages’: the Dutch Republic had it in the seventeenth century, Antwerp and Brabant from c. 1480 to c. 1580, the southern Low Countries as a whole from c. 1380 to c. 1480. In general, a ‘Golden Age’ is associated with the flourishing of the arts, which in its turn depended on the existence of a wealthy bourgeoisie desiring to show its social success. The high purchasing power in the core cities attracted talented people; their buoyant activities stimulated a creative environment in which artwork was produced in such great quantities and with such an exceptional quality that it became a highly valued export good. The position of the Low Countries will be examined in the West-European economy.
Popular Culture in the Late Medieval Low Countries (HIST W4113)
Taught by Walter Prevenier, Professor Emeritus, University of Ghent
Court records surviving from the late medieval centuries—the time of Chaucer and Boccaccio, the time of some of Europe’s most splendid courts, the time when cities like Venice and Bruges were at their height—often contain lively records of popular culture. Court registers, verdicts by judges, notes of the bailiffs in their accounts, investigations of the prosecutors, critical examinations of eyewitnesses, and any other type of judicial document surviving from this age often reveal human emotions, describe people’s motivations, document their blunders, and report their gossip. Such documents cannot, however, be read straight, as though they were perfectly reliable accounts of facts or feelings. Rather they are laden with many contradictions. Rival accounts of the same events by the various involved parties and witnesses, outright lies, the biases of judges, narratives designed to please or mislead the rulers—all such factors render any “pardon letter,” as these documents are known, a difficult, even if an incomparably rich, source. They need a significant effort of critical decoding. This course focuses on how we can use a collection of such letters surviving from the Low Countries, where commercial cities thrived and one of Europe’s most elegant courts was situated, to gain insight into late medieval society.
Early Modern Globalization: the North Atlantic and the Dutch Connection (HIST W4130)
Co-taught by Marjolein ‘t Hart, Associate Professor of History, University of Amsterdam, and C.A. (Karel) Davids, Professor of History, Free University of Amsterdam
This course examined the extent and nature of early modern globalization, in particular the transatlantic exchanges between Europe and North America between the late fifteenth and early eighteenth centuries. The focus on the European side was on England, France, and the Low Countries. After an introduction to the current historical debated on early modern globalization, the course first gave a survey of the rise of the early modern colonial enterprises, the expansion of trade networks, and the growth of slavery and the slave trade. The next meetings dealt with various constituent forces of globalization on the European side, notably the rise of fiscal-military states and the role of religion in power relations, and with various aspects of exchange in the North Atlantic World, namely the circulation of knowledge and environmental consequences of the ‘biological expansion of Europe’. Finally, the course examined the Atlantic connection in European culture and European economies and discussed its relevance for the Great Divergence between the ‘West’ and the ‘Rest’.
Afrikaans, Identity, and South African Film (FILM W4145)
Taught by Francois Verster, Independent Documentary Filmmaker
With the rise of Afrikaner Nationalism in South Africa, the Afrikaans language—a creolized version of Dutch first spoken by slaves from Asia—became a central marker of Afrikaner political and cultural identity, a line of separation not only from Europe (through its nature as “African” language) but also, in its “purified” white form, from the “coloured” (in South Africa, mixed-race) language in which it had its origins. The latter “unauthorized” version continued to exist and develop organically alongside the former, placing black (largely “coloured”) Afrikaans speakers in a conflicted relation to the “language of the oppressor”—on the one hand, ownership and use of Afrikaans itself became a site of struggle (with radical linguistic result), while on the other, negative associations led to an eventual divide in the “coloured” community between educated, aspirant middle-class English speakers and working-class Afrikaans speakers. Ever since the demise of white Afrikaner Nationalism following South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994, established links amongst race, class and the Afrikaans language have however become increasingly fluid and contested. With both white “Afrikaners” and “coloured” Afrikaans speakers perceiving themselves as marginalized within the new political order, and with reconciliation and transformation becoming increasingly uncomfortable bedfellows within the national discourse, the language has become a central instrument within certain battles around South African identity, and also a sign from within which such tensions can be read. This course looked at issues of cultural, racial and political identity around Afrikaans through the medium of the moving image (film, video and internet). Primary texts considered range from early Nationalist dramas and propaganda films to recent music videos, “Skollywood” (Cape Flats gangster) films, documentaries on “coloured” and “Afrikaner” issues, TV soaps and “post-political” mass entertainment features. Secondary readings cover both broad theoretical positions and context-specific commentary and analysis.
Knowledge Networks and Information Economies in the Early Modern Period (HIST G8117)
Taught by Harold Cook, John F. Nickoll Professor of History, Brown University
This course was designed to introduce students to major topics in the developing historical literature on the relationships between intellectual and economic history, centered on Europe’s global reach in the first two centuries after Columbus and Da Gama. It focused on international trade and the circulation of knowledge in the early modern period, focusing on the Dutch merchants and scientists.